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August 1998
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A South Carolina Success Story: Overturning Ballot Access Injustices

Earlier this year, the South Carolina Senate introduced a six-page bill that focused on changing the filing date for candidates from a weekend date to the following business day--an apparently innocuous shift. But at the very end of the bill, the Senate added a provision that third party and independent candidates would have to pay a filing fee equivalent to 1% of the total salary of the contested office for the total term of office--for Senate races, a filing fee of about $8,000.

When Patricia Cox, the Natural Law Party's Associate Director of Party Building, discovered this filing provision, she first called all the other third parties and discovered that no action had yet been taken against the bill. She then called the chair of the Senate Elections Committee, who promised to notify her if the bill came up for discussion. Ms. Cox also talked to the executive director of the Board of Elections, who told her that the filing fee was used solely to pay for costs of primary elections--something effecting only the two major parties--and that third parties would therefore be justified in lobbying against it.

When the bill did come up for discussion, Ms. Cox alone was notified. She called all the other third parties, asking them to send representatives, who did an excellent job speaking against the bill. Speakers from the Natural Law Party included Ms. Cox, state party chair George Taylor, candidate Joe Innella, and supporter Lucian Bruno. At the meeting, these speakers and other third party representatives were so persuasive that the Committee decided to table the bill indefinitely.

We congratulate our South Carolina Party leaders for successfully preventing the passage of discriminatory ballot access laws and thereby for ensuring a level playing field for third party candidates.

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